Will ebooks be a hit?
The Kindle is equipped with a Wi-Fi connection that taps into an Amazon e-book store, which users can access to purchase new electronic books–and Amazon has reportedly signed onto a deal with Sprint for EVDO access. Additionally, the device comes with a headphone jack for audiobooks, as well as an e-mail address.
There a have been other attempts to launch ereaders, but they’ve pretty much fizzled in the marketplace.
Can such a release from Amazon work any better? I think so. Maybe. There are some nice synergies for Amazon: Strong customer base of avid readers who are tech savvy and an ample supply of inventory.
I like books and have a hard time imagining doing that much reading electronically, but there was a time I couldn’t imagine watching video on a tiny iPod screen. Now that I have one, I watch more online video than ever.
There may also be good news for newspapers:
The company is also said to have forged agreements with somewhere between 50 and 100 newspaper publishers, in addition to the daily New York Times and Wall Street Journal features. Kindle owners are expected to be able to select from a long list of publications for automatic download.
Our industry has a long history over scheming for inkless paper delivery, but I’m not sure consumers are as eager to experience a newspaper on a device such as this as some hope.
Think about the different formats of books and newspapers — a book is generally just text. It’s really just one long scroll. But newspapers are broken up into discreet chunks presented in a way to feed into a broadsheet or tabloid. And ads are so important. Can that layout be preserved in one of these devices in a way that users will find comfortable and efficient?
I’ll believe it when I see it.
It’s important to remember, I think, that technology won’t necessarily be our savior. Each new advance brings its own challenges, and consumers will ultimately decide the most attractive use for each new device. Publishers have very little control over how digital devices will be used, or how their products will be perceived.